Do the names Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Jerry Rice, Ronny Lott, Steve Young and George Seifert bring a smile to your face?
Thinking about them always makes me smile.
We 49er fans had an amazing 20-year run with four Superbowl wins in the 1980s, one in the 1990s, and an additional five division and three wildcard wins during those same years.
Since the turn of the century, football hasn’t been as much fun for me as it was when those wonderful boys (and their excellent coaches) were playing.
And I think my favorite game was the one that started it all (at least for me). The January 10, 1982, NFC Championship game between the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. Who doesn’t remember that nail biter that ended with "The Catch"?
Several of us 49er fans got together to watch the game. My roommate and her boyfriend were spending the day north of San Francisco, but said they’d try to make it to the party in San Jose before the end of the game. Our party started off well, when the 49ers scored first. But as the game progressed, hope battled fear inside us all.
The Cowboys were known as "America’s Team" back in those days, and were expected to win easily. But the game was a back and forth contest.
Despite San Francisco’s first touchdown, the Cowboys matched their touchdown and added a field goal to make the score at the end of the first quarter Cowboys 10, 49ers 7.
In the second quarter both teams scored touchdowns. Halftime score was Cowboys 17, 49ers 14.
In the third quarter, only the 49ers scored a touchdown, making the score 49ers 21 to Cowboy’s 17.
We who were partying were excited. It was looking good for our team. The energy in the room was high.
But in the fourth quarter, the cowboys scored a touchdown and a field goal.
The clock was winding down. The tension was rising. With only 58 seconds left in the game, the 49ers were down by six. They had to get a touchdown.
Our party crowd grew silent. Our fingers were crossed, our eyes intent on the TV screen. Please! Please! Please let the 49ers win! We prayed.
The team marched up the field toward the Cowboy’s end zone. They were beautiful -- slim and graceful and athletic. I thought they looked like muscular ballet dancers. They just had to win! We were barely breathing…hoping in some way to send our love and faith to our hometown boys.
And then it happened -- on a third down play Joe Montana threw an impossibly high pass to the back of the Cowboy’s end zone where all 6-foot 4-inches of Dwight Clark made an impossibly high leap and caught the ball with his fingertips and pulled it in. The stands went wild as he scored the go ahead touchdown.
"The Catch" had everyone at our party screaming and clapping and laughing and pumping the air with fists. Our team was Superbowl bound.
Long after the game finished and we were all still sitting around reliving the sweetness of the victory, my roommate and her boyfriend arrived. They’d been in Sausalito visiting galleries and had headed leisurely back down Highway 101, forgetting all about the football game.
As they drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, talking happily, they suddenly noticed up ahead at the tollbooths that all the toll collectors were jumping up and down. And when they stopped to pay their toll, they learned why: "The Catch!" The toll collectors had been listening to the game. And "The Catch" stopped everything while celebration ensued.
So now you know how I bask in football past, making the season fun for myself, even when football present isn’t so great.
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